Weekly Rochester Events #290: Tuberculosis Goes to Pott
Thursday, July 29, 2004I wrote a note on a message board for Quirkyforums at Quirkyalone.net that was somewhat on the topic of conformity and how it is essentially useless. I'm trying to figure out a use for it. I guess when it comes to survival-level tasks, conforming to meet a common goal is appropriate, but in the relatively easy-to-survive world I live in, it's just a hindrance.
The idea that conformity is good is rooted in that foil-to-wisdom known as "common knowledge" which in turn is rooted in the idea that the majority cannot be wrong. History teaches us that often either the majority is wrong (i.e. the earth is flat) or our perception of the what the majority says is wrong (i.e. how the Holocaust happened.) So given that the majority is fallible, then statements like "a million people can't be wrong" are also fallible, and — taken further — since that's part of "common knowledge," it too is fallible.
Isn't conformity just acting in agreement to what is perceived as the norm? And the norm? — isn't that just the theoretical unspoken agreement between people as to the bounds of their behavior? Which, in turn, means the common behavior between people is correct, and we're back the majority being right. Right?
See, what I'm finding is that people — as individuals — seem to make decisions about their actions pretty similarly. Day-to-day, we're mostly on autopilot, but when confronted with a more complex decision, we consider any benefit or harm that acting (or not acting) will happen to ourself and any parties involved in both the long-term and the short-term and weigh it all out together. Sometimes it gets so bad that we actually make a matrix of the whole thing just to figure it out. Some people consider these outcomes very deeply and others not so much. (There are a few people who only think of themselves, but there called sociopaths and by their nature as anti-communal people, they're considered to be not normal.)
Mostly, though, you can trust in people's good will and instinct to not harm others. Note that you can't trust everyone's good will, just mostly; the tricky part is figuring out who's who. My own technique is to constantly retune my instincts. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt where I neither trust them nor distrust them then let them move me to one side or another — focusing on leaning one way or another as quickly as I can rather than deciding beforehand.
For others, though, this is where inappropriate prejudices are formed and where conformity comes into play. The assumption is that someone who looks like you and acts like you shares common moral ground and can be trusted: therefore, it would be a much better world if everyone looked alike and acted alike. If you don't have tattoos, people who have tattoos are not to be trusted; if you're not black, black people are not to be trusted; if you ride a Harley Davidson motorcycle, people who don't are not to be trusted.
I mean, what kind of world are we trying to build here? Just what is so great about conformity except to make people who are conformists feel comfortable? I say we stop worrying about what conformists think and just speak our mind. I have a feeling that if we all expressed our true opinions, the adage that "the majority is always right" might one day be used in a context that is not sarcastic.
Now, on to your regularly scheduled review of the past week:
I got to see The Big Lebowski last week. It's one of many movies that I've seen but haven't seen: five minutes here, a half-hour there. This time, I watched it from beginning-to-end at the Dryden. Finally, I get to say that I really did like it. At its core it seems to work as a detective story where the unwitting detective is Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski (not to be confused with Jeffrey Lebowski, or The Big Lebowski.) Unlike other detective stories, The Dude is a pot-smoking, unemployed bowler who casually saunters through life, ususally wearing a bathrobe over boxers-and-a-tee-shirt. He ends up stuck in the middle of a complex plot full of a peculiarly plausible mix of characters.
On a related note, I'm posting an adjustment to comments in a previous essay: The Big Empty is a considerably different movie, and my implication of its similarity to the former was based on my Short Attention Span Theater-style viewpoint.
Also, on Tuesday, I hit The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) to see Billy Nayer Show who do these peculiarly rock-opera style songs. Of course, the whole show is closely tied to the movie they showed earlier — and, I guess, are completely intertwined in its production and music. The movie was The American Astronaut which is one of the strangest films I've seen. It mixes a low-budget feel, a 1930's-style image of future space travel, generous amounts of homosexual undertones, and an oddly metaphoric story which could be interpreted as a cross between the past being dead and some alternative interpretation of Christian-styled beliefs. The story is about an astronaut who gets a job returning the body of a dead man on the otherwise all-female Venus to his rich family on Earth in exchange for bringing Venus a young man from the all-male planet Jupiter.
Anyway, you can probably guess the some of the influences for the philosophical essay I opened with.
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Internet Movie Database
On this day ... July 29
Store at CafePress
Buy some JayceLand junk at sky high prices!
Rochester Music Coalition
Rochester Goes Out (D&C)
Rochester Punk Rock
WGMC Jazz Calendar
Kids Out and About
Movie links courtesy The Internet Movie Database. Map links courtesy MapsOnUs. Some movie synopses courtesy UpcomingMovies.com
About the title ... Pott's disease which damages the vertebral bones and can be caused by a tuberculosis infection gets its name from British surgeon Percival Pott, born 290 years ago in 1714.
This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including Monroe County and occasionally the Western New York region) from Thursday, July 29, 2004 thru Wednesday, August 4, 2004.
It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do.
The musical styles listed can include punk, emo, ska, swing, rock, rock-and-roll, alternative, metal, jazz, blues, noise band, experimental music, folk, acoustic, and "world-beat."
Events listed take place during the day, in the evenings, or as part of the city's nightlife as listed.
Copyright © 2004 Jason Olshefsky. All rights reserved.